ABOUT TALK JUSTICE
How did the work begin?
#TalkJustice started with a series of meetings and interviews throughout fall 2014 and winter 2015 with community groups, individuals, and justice system actors to generate in-depth, frank discussions about barriers to justice for Nova Scotia’s diverse communities. Excerpts from some of these discussions were then posted to the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society’s social media accounts and to talkjustice.ca. This initiative of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society's Equity & Access Office built a public conversation around access to justice, with voices from both the community and the legal sector in an effort to better understand the legal needs and experiences of Nova Scotia’s diverse communities. Following the consultations, a report was produced and a formal launch held at the Native Friendship Center. The day began with opening remarks by Darrel Pink, Executive Director, Tilly Pillay QC, President, and J. Michael MacDonald, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia, who all acknowledged the existence of an access to justice crisis in Nova Scotia and stressed the importance of public input in determining how to solve it. All three framed #TalkJustice as the start of a new conversation between the justice system and the public – one that puts community voices at the centre. Key leaders in the #TalkJustice project included Emma Halpern, Nova Scotia Barristers Society; Jane Willwerth, Nova Scotia Barristers Society; LaMeia Reddick, KINnected Leadership; El Jones, Poet Laureate and Community Activist; Rachel Derrah, Brave Space and the many contributors, artists and leaders with deep roots in the community.
What Were the Initial Findings?
Following the initial round of consultations and community engagement work, the Nova Scotia Barristers Society, in concert with community consultant Lameia Reddick & graphic facilitator Rachel Derrah, released a final report which summarized the key themes that arose from the dialogue with community.
The issues identified were;
1. “No Justice”: particularly if you live in poverty;
2. Inaccessibility of ‘the system’ on many levels;
3. Media treatment of the issues;
4. Little access to legal education;
5. Mental health;
6. Racism, discrimination and a feeling of being poorly represented;
7. Disempowerment from the difficulty of navigating “the system”; and
8. Bureaucracy: A lack of support and understanding from those working in the system.
Following the pilot of #TalkJustice, the project was convened by the Access to Justice Coordinating Committee (A2JCC). This committee was established to respond to the National Action Committee Report on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters report “A Roadmap for Change” and the Canadian Bar Association report “Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act”. Chaired by the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, this committee demonstrated a commitment in Nova Scotia to building a coherent, collaborative, and coordinated approach to addressing all aspects of the justice system while avoiding duplication of effort and activity. In recognizing the constitutionally independent roles of many participants in the justice system, the A2JCC acknowledged that each part of that system must work to improve those areas in which it has primary responsibility. In keeping with the thrust of the reports mentioned above it is committed to putting the public first in considering and implementing improvements in working to improve the justice system.
The A2JCC Terms of Reference:
1. To provide leadership to a cohesive and collaborative approach for access to justice initiatives in Nova Scotia.
2. To provide, as appropriate, a forum for engaging the public and public sector participants.
3. To share information, monitor and co-ordinate work undertaken, and educate the public on our efforts.
4. To promote innovation in all aspects of the delivery of justice services.
5. To measure the impact of its work by gathering appropriate data and identifying expected indicators of success and outcomes in a manner that does not interfere with judicial independence.
Engage. Inform. Initiate. In 2018, a new partnership with the Access to Justice & Law Reform Institute of Nova Scotia was formed. #TalkJustice was moved to the Institute, located at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. The #TalkJustice initiative enables us to facilitate and encourage coordination and collaboration within the justice system through the development of partnerships with communities, stakeholders and Government. By focusing on holistic issues while building a public conversation around access to justice issues, we can better understand how to move forward. As we build upon the work that has already been done, our focus will be to engage new and diverse voices in the access to justice conversation and highlight initiatives that aim to improve access to justice for Nova Scotia residents.